Phife Dawg, co-founder of A Tribe Called Quest, has died. He was 45 years old.
According to Rolling Stone, the rapper born Malik Taylor had been suffering from a number of health issues, including Type 1 diabetes, and had received a kidney transplant in 2008. However, his exact cause of death is unconfirmed at this time.
Update – Wednesday, March 23rd at 11:45 a.m. CT: A statement issued by his family confirms Phife died from complications of diabetes.
In 1985, Phife Dawg and childhood friend Q-Tip formed A Tribe Called Quest alongside Jarobi and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. The group quickly built a dedicated following through their wit, socially conscious lyrics, and genre-bending music that combined elements of jazz music with obscure sampling. Their sophomore album, 1991’s The Low End Theory, and follow-up, 1993’s Midnight Marauders, rank among hip-hop’s all-time greatest releases, and inspired an entire generation of hip-hop.
Following their initial 13-year run, A Tribe Called Quest broke up in 1998. They reunited eight years later, and performed a number of gigs in the subsequent years.
Update – Wednesday, March 23rd at 11:45 a.m. CT: In a heartfelt statement released Wednesday evening, the surviving members of A Tribe Called Quest paid tribute to their fallen bandmate. They write, “His music and what he’s contributed is seismic and hard to measure. He’s affected us as much as he’s affected all of you. We’re inspired by his daily joy and courage. He wasn’t in pain. He was happy.”
Read their full statement:
Our hearts are heavy. We are devastated. This is something we weren’t prepared for although we all know that life is fleeting. It was no secret about his health and his fight. But the fight for his joy and happiness gave him everything he needed. The fight to keep his family happy, his soul happy and those around him happy, gave him complete and unadulterated joy… until he heeded his fathers call.
We love his family his mother, his father, his son, his wife, his nieces, his family here in New York, Atlanta, California and Trinidad.
Thank you for the outpouring of prayers and support from the fans, fellow artists, music outlets, blogs, radio stations, DJ’s, social media and the music community at large. This too is part of his joy and means a lot to him. His family is overwhelmed by the support, well wishes and are thankful. His music and what he’s contributed is seismic and hard to measure. He’s affected us as much as he’s affected all of you. We’re inspired by his daily joy and courage. He wasn’t in pain. He was happy.
We take comfort in knowing he will be beside his grandmother.
Listen to A Tribe Called Quest’s greatest songs and see tributes from fellow hip-hop luminaries below.
Kendrick Lamar’s tribute
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Phife forever 1970-2016. 1991 in Sept I went to visit Tariq at Millersville U in the middle of PA (Lancaster). Miles Davis had just passed & I went on a binge to study his post jazz works. Went to Sound Of Market to purchase Nefertiti, In A Silent Way & Live Evil—the only non jazz purchase I made that day ironically was the most jazziest album in that collection: #TheLowEndTheory by @ATCQ. —it was raining that day so somehow the 1…2 punch of "Nefertiti"/"Fall" just had me in a trance that train trip—even though I suspected there was a possibility that Tribe could possibly have made a better album then their debut (the perfect @@@@@ mic Source rating would be on stands in a week so I was right)—but I knew I wanted to save that listening for when I got up to the campus w Riq.—so some 90mins later when I get to his dorm–we ripped that bad boy open (I can't describe the frustration that was CD packaging in 1991, just imagine the anger that environmentalists feel when all that paper packaging in Beats headphone gets wasted—it's like that)—the sign of a true classic is when a life memory is burnt in your head because of the first time you hear a song. —Riq & I had this moment a few times, but the look on our faces when we 1st heard "Buggin Out" was prolly Me & Tariq's greatest "rewind selector!" moment in our friendship. (Back then every MC's goal was to have that "rewind!!!" moment. As in to say something so incredible. Or to catch you by surprise that it makes you go "DAAAAAYUM!!!"& you listen over & over—Malik "Phife" Taylor's verse was such a gauntlet/flag planting moment in hip hop. Every hip hop head was just…stunned HE. CAME. FOR. BLOOD & was taking NO prisoners on this album (or ever again) we just kept looking at the speaker on some disbelief old timey radio Suspense episode. & also at each other "Phife is KILLIN!"–by the time we got to "Scenario" I swear to god THAT was the moment I knew I wanted to make THIS type of music when I grew up–(yeah yeah dad I know: "go to Juilliard or Curtis to make a nice living at "real music") but he didn't know that Phife & his crew already wrote my destiny. I ain't look back since. THANK YOU PHIFE!